James Woodard and “The Grasshopper Lies Heavy”

The following information was collected from an interview with James Woodard. For the sake of space, this piece is arranged as a write-up rather than as the lengthy dialogue it turned out to be.

James Woodard, born in Miami and raised in San Antonio, is the guitarist for instrumental band The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which was recently named Best Instrumental Band by the 2012 San Antonio Current Music Awards (they also managed to place in the Best Hard Rock, Best Hardcore, Best Heavy Metal and Best Drummer categories). James, who started the band around 2006, recently put up most of the music he has ever recorded (with TGLH, MEGA MAN [him on bass], The Islands and the Sea [him on drums], and LYSOL [him on everything]) on Soundcloud.com for free streaming. A record that is not available online is their new split 7″ with God Townes, available through their label at texasisfunny.com. This single (their ninth official release, their first on vinyl) also features a download code through which you can get an extra track by each of the bands (James insists they’re not throwaway tracks: they only record the good stuff they use in their live sets). The record is going to be released as part of the globally celebrated Record Store Day this Saturday, April 21. Both bands are marking the event that day with a show at The Ten Eleven (the only acceptable venue for TGLH).

A brief review of the record, titled collectively as “IN LOVE”:

Both TGLH tracks, “Sucker” and “Dead Songs for Dead Bands” (both recorded and engineered by Krazy Kat legend Bob Catlin), are among my favourite recordings by the band because they come closer to recreating the energy of their live shows (regarded by some as the loudest in San Antonio) than much of their previous work (which is also why you should check out their 2010 live album “Every Man For Himself and God Against All”.) These new songs are also much noisier than their other recordings and feature a barrage of guitar feedback and other effect-pedal noise. They aren’t simply noise, however, and prominently feature TGLH’s signature driving rhythm in odd meters, which gives away James’ desire to make music that is significantly emotive. God Townes, led by former Sohns guitarist Marcos Gossi, is not a band whose work I am familiar with. Nevertheless, I am impressed with each of their contributing tracks, “Big Branch” and “W.H.A.N.S.,” in a way that usually evades me regarding local SA bands. People who need lyrics in their music will probably prefer these songs over those of TGLH, but all four tracks are as strong as I could ask for. I even bought two copies.

James Woodard isn’t only a musician. He is also painter and art collector (he owns the painting by SA artist Linda Arrendondo that serves as the cover art for “IN LOVE”), who does large abstract canvasses, “non-representational,” “third generation modernist style.” He runs a guitar effect pedal shop, McCandytone Boutique Pedals, which he builds and paints himself. He does absurdist comedy videos with Pretendicles and was recently pulled over by cops for suspected murder (of a friend he was fake-murdering for a sketch). He also contributes music reviews for the San Antonio Current, writes for a number of art-related publications and has his own blog called “Imawritesomeshitboutmusic.” He and bandmate Mario Trejo worked at Krazy Kat Music for four years until last week when the company surprisingly fired everyone, including 18-year employee Bob Catlin. So go support those guys at their show on Saturday by getting their new record or by adding a Woodard to your art collection.